Phil Vettel, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, joined Tribune Company (at Suburban Trib) in 1979, and has been The Tribune’’s restaurant critic since 1989. He has a wife and two sons, one or more of whom often accompany Phil on his culinary adventures. He also makes a mean egg-salad sandwich.


Recent Articles
  • Phil Vettel reviews Everest

    CHICAGO, Ill. — 30 years after it first opened, Everest is still soaring above Chicago’s fine dining scene. Watch Chicago Tribune dining critic Phil Vettel’s review of the restaurant that sits on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange.

  • Phil Vettel reviews Bad Hunter

    CHICAGO, IL — Let me just say that “Bad Hunter” is the best name for a veggie-focused restaurant I’ve ever heard. The phrase “bad hunter” is the punchline to a silly vegetarian joke. And it’s a fine name for a restaurant that leans heavily toward greens and grains but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bad Hunter is flanked on Randolph Street’s Restaurant Row by Au Cheval to the east, and to the west, Lone Wolf, a sister property within Heisler Hospitality […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Beacon Tavern

    CHICAGO — In the shadow of Trump Tower or the Wrigley Building, depending on the time of day, sits a new restaurant you’d do well to keep on your radar. Beacon Tavern carries a Wabash Avenue address, but it’s accessed most easily via the walkway that stretches west from Michigan Avenue, between Wrigley’s north and south towers. For years, the restaurant’s space was home to McDonald’s. It’s fair to say that the look and cuisine have improved significantly. “We pretty […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews The Heritage

    FOREST PARK, Ill. — You might not think of Forest Park’s stretch of Madison Street as a restaurant row, but there are so many dining options here — pub food, family Italian, Cajun, Francesca’s Fiore (the near-west-suburban link in Scott Harris’ chain) — that even midweek you might have to hunt a little for a parking spot. But Oak Park couple Mischa and Jacob DeHart thought the neighborhood needed more, so they found a property to develop and recruited two chefs […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Elske

    CHICAGO — What hooked me was the duck tart. Three dishes into the tasting menu at Elske, and the tart arrived, a sliver of silky-smooth liver mousse astride a toothsome buckwheat crust. On top, a layer of dried and ground parsley added the vivid-green color and pebbled texture of an artificial putting surface. Surreal yet familiar, exotic yet comforting, this dish made me want to taste every single thing on the menu. Elske is the creation of husband-wife team David and […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews The Barn

    EVANSTON, Ill. — Nostalgia is great if you get the dosage right. The Barn, the latest Evanston restaurant by Amy Morton (Found), pretty much does. There’s enough yesteryear to the place to stir rosy-hued memories, but not so much that the restaurant loses its sense of the present. And that’s the balance one has to strike; overindulge in a bygone era, and you risk reminding everybody why it died out in the first place. The old-timey touches start early. You reach […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Arami

    CHICAGO — Chicago is awash in restaurants one visits strictly for sushi, and then those that handle noodle dishes and other hot items well but where sushi and sashimi are afterthoughts, if they’re available at all. Arami, however, is one of the best-balanced Japanese restaurants in Chicago, a multi-tooled player, much in the manner of Katsu or Momotaro (still the best, in my view), where the sushi bar and hot kitchen both operate at high levels, helped along by a surprisingly […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Smyth

    CHICAGO, Ill. — You couldn’t ask for a better homecoming than the one that John B. Shields and his wife, Karen Urie Shields, have created on Ada Street. John was sous-chef for Charlie Trotter for two years, then was sous-chef for Grant Achatz for the first two years of Alinea. Karen was pastry sous-chef under Gale Gand at Tru for two years before jumping to Trotter’s for five, the last two as head pastry chef. When the Shieldses left Chicago […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews The Loyalist

    CHICAGO, Ill. — The Loyalist, the “other” restaurant by chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, sits a floor below Smyth, the duo’s fine-dining room. The Loyalist is Mary Ann to Smyth’s Ginger; Betty to Smyth’s Veronica. You’re dazzled by Veronica, but Betty’s more fun to hang out with. The Loyalist is a drop-in-anytime kind of place (though reservations are accepted, walk-ins are encouraged), dark as a grotto and outfitted with long bar-height tables (seated communally), a few booths, and stools […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews GT Prime

    CHICAGO — GT Prime is either the steakhouse you will avoid or the steakhouse you’ve been waiting for. Reinventing the American steakhouse has been something of a cottage industry in the last few years. RPM Steak, Swift & Sons, Maple & Ash and others have upgraded and tweaked the steakhouse experience with contemporary cocktail offerings, chef-driven side dishes and non-beef entrees. Giuseppe Tentori, whose monogram also graces the ever-reliable GT Fish & Oyster, has taken an even bolder approach. GT […]